In a sign of just how extreme the Mexican drug war has gotten, a newspaper in crime-ridden Ciudad Juarez has published an editorial asking the drug cartels to tell them what they should and shouldn’t publish.
The newspaper’s seeming capitulation to organized criminals–whose bloody battle among themselves and with Mexican authorities has cost the lives of 28,000 people in the past four years–has caused an outcry among politicians and press observers, who fear the country’s fragile freedom of press is the latest victim of the drug war.
And it has prompted Mexican President Felipe Calderon to announce changes to Mexican law that would make attacks on journalists a federal crime.
Following the death last week of El Diario photography intern Luis Carlos Santiago in what appeared to be a gang-related shooting, the newspaper published an editorial, entitled “What do you want from us?,” in which the newspaper offered editorial control to unnamed gang bosses, in exchange for sparing the lives of newspaper staff. Santiago was the second El Diario staffer to be killed in the past two years.
That claim sparked anger within the corridors of Mexico’s government, which saw the move as an act of surrender to organized crime.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that news media around the world were “surprised” by the paper’s decision. The Houston Chronicle describes the move as a “warning sign” that “cannot be ignored by the United States. The term ‘failed state’ should not be used casually. But neither should it be excluded from the discussion of Mexico’s troubles out of concerns about courtesy and politeness.”